Removing Goodwin's knighthood was an act of crude populism

The government has behaved in an arbitrary and unprincipled fashion.

Few will be saddened by the withdrawal of Fred Goodwin's knighthood, awarded, absurdly, for "services to banking". But there was much to regret in the manner of its removal. As Alistair Darling laments in today's Times (£), rather than establishing a clear set of principles for awarding and revoking honours, the government has behaved in an arbitrary fashion. There was more than a whiff of mob rule about yesterday's decision, something that should make any liberal feel queasy.

Goodwin has not been convicted of any crime nor has he been "censured, struck off etc by the relevant professional or other regulatory authority" - the standard criteria for the removal of honours. Contrary to what some now claim, the report by the Financial Services Authority into the collapse of RBS did not censure Goodwin personally. Are we sure that Fred the Shred belongs in the same class as Mugabe and Ceausescu?

And what of the honours awarded to former RBS chairman Sir Tom McKillop or former Lloyds chairman Sir Victor Blank? Or the honorary knighthood awarded to Alan Greenspan, the man more responsible than any other for the financial architecture that collapsed in 2008. Are their titles now to be removed? If so, the government should proceed on the basis of principle, not populist whim.

Conservative deputy chairman Michael Fallon's assertion on the Today programme that the Forfeiture Committee is "entirely independent of politicians" does not bear scrutiny. The removal of Goodwin's knighthood could not have come at a more convenient moment for Cameron, who broke with precedent to signal his approval of the move. Playing catch-up with Ed Miliband on "responsible capitalism", he has gleefully thrown some red meat to the mob.

Myself, I believe that Goodwin's knighthood should have stood as a monument to the folly of a political class bedazzled by high finance. Instead, the Conservative Party, funded as it is by the largesse of the City of London, has removed Goodwin's honour, whilst simultaneously ensuring that the system that produced him continues as before.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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